Topographical Skills Test Beginner’s Guide for PCO Drivers

topographical test training

We frequently receive inquiries regarding the PCO topographical test from newcomers to London, so we thought it would be helpful to put up a short guide that explains what will be covered in the TFL topographical test and offer some advice on how to ace it.

What Is The Topographical Skills Test?

The topographical Skills Test is an exam conducted to ensure that drivers can navigate between routes using maps and are familiar with how maps function. Your ability to use maps, comprehend atlas indexes, and plan a route between two locations will all be evaluated in the test.

What Is The Test Format?

The topographical skills test consists of four sections designed to assess a PCO driver candidate’s ability to read a map. You can take the test on a computer or paper, depending on your preference.

  • Section 1 – Index Based Assessment

This exam assesses your ability to use an atlas’ indexing section. This is mostly intended to test your knowledge of where various London locations are.

You will be given an atlas and asked to find various locations or areas for this test. Making a note of the grid reference and page number of your answer is an essential step.

  • All locations and places will be alphabetised, so you only need to look for your answer somewhere in the atlas.

  • Section 2 – General Topography

The questions in Section 2 examine your knowledge of how to navigate between different locations. Similar to section 1, you will be handed an atlas and asked to pinpoint a certain location in it as your starting point. You’ll next be asked to identify and provide a broad direction to another location.

  • This section is rather simple because you must determine if the destination is to the starting place’s North, South, East, or West.
  • Section 3 – Route Planning

In this section, you will be presented with two different spots on the map and must determine the best route between them.

While there can be any number of routes between two points, the optimum solution should be to take the most direct route feasible while complying with all traffic laws, such as not ‘going the wrong way or taking one-way roads.

Another challenge with Section 3 is that you can’t show the route to any neighbouring location. You must arrive at your destination’s exact pinpoint location. Passengers may consent to be left off at a nearby location when driving them in a PCO car, but in this exam, you must answer the questions with pinpoint precision.

  • Please Keep in Mind

This section bears the most weight, so make sure you don’t make silly errors.

  • If you make any of the following mistakes, you will receive a failing grade:
  • You fail to choose the direct route.
  • You fail to recognise the appropriate map symbols. (for example, one-way systems and roundabouts)
  • You fail to arrive at the exact destination.
  • Section 4 – Compass Point Questions

You will be required to use compass points to respond to scenario-based questions in the last section of the topographical skills test. Where will you be, for instance, if you start at Point A and travel three blocks east and two streets north? You will need to locate your destination on the atlas and determine the direction in relation to the starting point.


The TFL topographical test is a necessary step in becoming an official PCO driver. The test itself is not tough, but PCO driver applicants must prepare well to pass it. This guide thoroughly explains the topographical skills test, and you should now have a good idea of what to expect.

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